Item ref: 2887
Philippe-Gabriel-Maurice-Joseph de Hénin-Liétard, 15th Prince de Chimay (1736-1804)
The present pair of cannon were almost certainly commissioned by Philippe-Gabriel-Maurice-Joseph de Hénin-Liétard, 15th Prince de Chimay (1736-1804). His wife, whom he had married in 1762, was Laure-Auguste de Fitz-James (1744-1814), in her own right a colourful figure at the Court of Versailles. The Princess de Chimay was Lady-in-Waiting to Marie Antoinette and from 1775, served as her Première dame d’honneur (contentiously then the second rather than the first most senior lady courtier of France). The princess accompanied the royal family on their removal from Versailles to Paris in October 1789, herself early in 1791 fleeing Paris for the Austrian Netherlands to escape the mob, by whom she was regarded with a derision rivalling that of the queen.
The form of this pair of cannon is much in keeping with the construction and styling of full-sized Flemish and French ordnance of the period. The elaborate relief frame or mantling of rococo ornament, together with its supporting figures, which encloses the arms of the Counts de Boussu is grand feature particularly characteristic of the French Ancien Régime.
The French inscription ‘TURC À MAURE’ which is carried within the scroll on one of the barrels translates literally as ‘Turk or Moor’. In 18th century colloquial French this wording carried with it the immediately recognisable implication of great fighting ability and ferocity; as such the French colloquial meaning of this phrase was ‘To treat (someone) with extreme force or hardness’.
The inscription ‘PORTE EFROY’ cast on the corresponding barrel translates as either ‘(the) Bearer of Fear’ or perhaps alternatively ‘(the) Doorway of Fear’. The former would understandably refer to the cannon as being a natural bearer or bringer of fear, the latter possibly an allusion to the mouth of the muzzle as a fearsome door or gateway unto doom. The spelling EFROY is the old French spelling of EFFROI (fear).